Why do reporters ask vapid gendered questions about diets and clothes and “balancing work and family” of actresses over and over again — while they ask male movie stars about preparing for their roles and other weighty topics? Well, because whether these inane queries get slapped down or answered in earnest, it probably makes for a juicy headline. But it’s also simply lazy. That’s why one of the most heartening changes in the cultural sphere in the past few years is the way so many celebrities, male and female alike (Jeremy Renner being a notable exception), have simply refused to play this game — or, even better, called questioners on their BS.
The fact that those call-outs become viral Internet moments has probably helped embolden frustrated celebs. It’s slow going, but the following perfect responses to sexist interview questions suggest that we may eventually live in a world where the distribution of deep and shallow queries will be a little bit more equitable.
Tom Hardy (at 9:43) responded to a question about whether he feels “outmanned” by all the women in Mad Max: Fury Road. The answer, in a word: no.
Peter Howell: I have a question for Tom Hardy. Tom, I’ll preface my remarks by saying that I have five sisters, a wife, a daughter, and a mother so I know what it’s like to be outgunned by estrogen. But I just wanted to ask you, as you were reading the script, did you ever think, “Why are all these women in here? I thought this was supposed to be a man’s movie?” Tom Hardy: No. [audience laughs] Not for one minute. Charlize Theron: Good for you.
Scarlett Johansson, in one of several such moments on her first Avengers press tour, got testy with an interviewer who was obsessed with her undergarments.
Emma Stone smacked down her own boyfriend, Andrew Garfield, for calling Spider-man’s costume-sewing “feminine.”
Ann Hathaway pivoted pervy Matt Lauer away from her accidental wardrobe malfunction, towards the actual subject of her interview, which happened to be Les Miserables.
Cate Blanchett crouched and called out the E! “GlamCam” as it panned down the length of her gown, asking, “Do you do this to the guys?”
Some of these seemingly spontaneous, public “not having it” responses are complemented by grassroots activism. For instance, during this year’s Oscars, the hashtag #askhermore, started by the Representation Project, encouraged reporters to go beyond the dress and hair topics. Celebrities signed on to that effort, too.
But maybe the most exciting thing about responses like Tom Hardy’s and others is the message they send to young people who are paying attention. A young blogger at SPARK expressed her feelings most enthusiastically when the spate of talking back began:
These actresses are awesome for talking back to the media, and calling out questions that they don’t like. I’m sure that’s not easy to do, especially knowing that this person could react by writing nasty things about you. They’re using their power as celebrities to speak the truth. I bet if you were publically called out by Scarlett Johansson you wouldn’t ask similar questions in the next interview.